Chapter 22 :: A Fortress of Ice and Fire

July 14th, 2014

It is the 10th of Moonstone in the early winter of 1206. For a year, the dwarves have worked towards the completion of the magma weapon. It has been a year of industry and labor for most, but for a few it has been a year of misery and death. Now, as the finishing touches are placed on the weapon, I reflect upon Roomcarnage's fortune - there were a few times in the last year where I personally doubted that the weapon would ever be completed at all.

A small crowd of corpses brawls at the base of the obsidian structure, as they have been for years. Caught in unceasing, relentless combat, these undead monsters have made my combat reports menu next to useless. Because of them, I need to habitually check the menu, or my announcements feed, for news of a dwarf's death or injury.

The presence of undead on the surface of the Ice of Ghosts does not inherently bother me. I cannot abide their flood of combat reports any longer, especially not in a fortress as fragile as Roomcarnage, where a single death might spell doom for all.

Soon. Soon, the dwarves will have installed the last doors. Soon, the weapon will be complete. Soon, it may be activated, and all will see whether or not the last year of labor has been in waste.

Meanwhile, a moody dwarf has just begun their construction!

Good. I would not like to handle another dead dwarf at this point in time. Geshud works secretly, until...

Wonderful! And now Geshud is a legendary mechanic!

A special artifact, indeed. Artifact mechanisms have many effective uses. Thank you Geshud, this will be a great addition to the wealth of Roomcarnage.

At last. Every pump is completed, every door in place. The outer casing protects the pump stack from the lava in the surrounding volcano, and the obsidian block tunnel leading to the volcano's lower slopes will ensure that the molten rock reaches the glacier itself. The time has come.

I activate all the pumps. The weapon is activated not by wind power, or water power, but by dwarf power. Thirty dwarves, to be exact, each one powering a single magma pump by hand. Of course, this means enabling the pump operating job on every single adult dwarf in the fortress. Before I unpause the game, I glance at my idlers. 29.

I unpause. The number of idlers drops, but there are still a few pumps still left unpowered. That's alright - since the pump stack is two by two, there is almost certainly going to be at least one pump active on any given level, which ensures that the weapon will still function.

I look through the units screen. Dwarves of all trades and skills run from the fortress to operate the pumps.

A seventh of the entire fortress population - including children and babies - move to power the weapon. In order to reach the pump stack, they must walk through the western access corridor of what was once an ice melting trap. A failed endeavor, although nine of the adamantine pumps that were used in its construction were later used in the lava weapon (which uses thirty pumps in total).

The dwarves move quickly. Many reach their chosen pumps before the lower portions of the weapon activate - even so, they begin pumping. After a short period of no magma, though, I grow suspicious.

Ah, of course. The safety is on. The obsidian hatches on the lowest level, meant to seal off the bubbling inferno of the volcano when the weapon is inactive, are closed.

They must be opened for the weapon to be activated. I order the lever to be pulled.

The hatches open, and the pumps begin pushing molten rock upwards. After a couple seconds, however, the pumps stop working - I know this, because the lava beyond and below the pumps becomes stationary.

I look over the entire pump stack. Ah, yes. The other safety is also on. These doors must be opened for the lava to shoot outwards. What's this cyan color?

Oh, just liquid water suspended in magma. Okay.

It occurs to me, moments before unleashing hell upon the surface, that I should check in with the vampires. Rith Craftportent, vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, stands high atop the slopes of the Oily Furnace - well out of range of the weapon. The dwarf diagnoser foul fog zombie is with her. Once again, I come to question what Rith knows, exactly, and what her motives truly are.

Further down the slopes, near Rith, stands Doren Gemslip.

Domas Firstfigures is in the most danger of them all, standing upon the surface of the glacier itself. Meh. Domas can burn for all I care.

I look over the fighting undead one last times. Such curious names. "Thob Colorlantern the Colorless Raptor of Stars." "Fistpaddled the Barricaded Pride of Violators." "Leafveiled." There are no leaves in Roomcarnage!

It matters not. I order the lever to be pulled. I watch...

The game pauses after a moment or two - cave-ins. I take the opportunity to get a good look at the slope of the volcano.

It's chaos. A nightmare of steam and stone and ice and fire.

Beneath the deluge of molten rock, the icy slopes of the Oily Furnace melt away, only to turn into raw obsidian and vapor a moment later as the lava falls downward into the liquid water. The result is a jagged slope of volcanic glass.

The obsidian structure seems to have had little effect upon the results of the weapon - most of the lava is flowing down the southern slope towards the very corner of the volcano.

More cave-in warnings. This is going to be a problem - I go into the init files and set the game so it doesn't pause and recenter whenever a cave-in occurs.

An avalanche of water in all phases engulfs the undead. I cackle maniacally as half a dozen foul fog zombies are encased in ice or cooling lava.

The weapon is successful, at least in this regard - there is hope for reclaiming the surface! Of course, certain quarantines will have to be observed for anything going into or out of the fortress. I cannot afford to allow any foul fog contaminant into Roomcarnage, for that would surely lead to doom.

I notice a curiosity - the stockpile for stone blocks which I had set on the glacier near the obsidian structure remains, despite occupying the same space as solid ice walls.

I'm betting I won't need this stockpile anymore. I remove it.

Meanwhile, the extreme frequency of cave-ins starts to take a toll on my computer. The lag is incredible, but I'm not willing to stop. The cave-ins will only occur while the weapon is active - once I stop covering the surface of the map with lava, things ought to speed back up.

Time grinds forward. I don't know what the game's FPS is at this point, but I suspect it's in the single digits.

As I watch, a curious series of structures emerge from the chaos. Two obsidian formations develop, on either side of the weapon's opening. These, I suppose, will prevent the magma flood from splashing back upon the volcano any more than it already has.

Instead, molten rock flows forward and outwards...

...sending a churning wall of ice and water before it.

A few other undead stand nearby, watching the first stages of destruction unfold. The deluge engulfs the trade depot - oh well. I wasn't using it anyway.

I take a look at the glacier itself. So far, very little damage has actually been inflicted upon the Ice of Ghosts. That's alright - I could melt away the entire glacier, or turn every last bit of it to obsidian, and the malign influence that plagues Roomcarnage would still turn the dead against the living.

I take notice of an odd, bright green patch, deep within the chaos. Ah - so that's what foul fog normally looks like. I've only ever seen foul fog mixed with elf blood snow, so it has only appeared grey to me. Now that the elf blood snow has melted away, the foul fog contaminant is visible as a bright, sickly green color. Foul indeed.

A moment later, most of the liquid water freezes as I watch. Interesting.

I take a closer look at the scene. The path of the lava becomes ever more apparent.

I unpause. The trade depot is covered with raw obsidian a moment later.

The deluge continues. The obsidian lava beds are clearly visible from above.

As the site of destruction grows broader, it becomes easier to perceive exactly what's going on. A torrent of molten rock pours out of the active weapon...

...down the jagged obsidian slope...

...and into the pool of lava that is spreading out over the glacier.

As the lava flows, it seems to make it's own path, lined with walls of raw obsidian.

Then again, just when I think I've got this cataclysm figured out, it surprises me. Towering curtains of mist and steam and volcanic ash sweep across the map, and I resign myself to the role of a spectator.

The lava lake churns with activity as the weapon operates at full speed. Thirty dwarves, each operating a pump made of adamantine and obsidian.

To the keen observer - no, that's not an open doorway. I've got a locked and tightly sealed obsidian door there.

The torrent of lava becomes a flood, spreading out over the southwestern corner of the map. Strange shapes take form in the unpredictable, hellish landscape.

As I watch, an island of raw obsidian and ice forms in on the edge of the expanding formation.

Beautiful.

It would seem that, despite being covered with obsidian walls, the trade depot did not deconstruct. Curious.

Occasionally, the white mists are spiked through with yellow.

Lava mist.

The encroaching ice envelops the mindless undead, one by one. The surface will be reclaimed!

The weapon shows no signs of stopping. I resolve to let it run until it's ammunition - the fiery heart of the volcano - runs dry.

That odd island formation completes itself - a spit of ice and rock amidst a raging torrent of fire.

Perhaps I will find some use for this. It's an odd structure...

...that visibly extends downwards...

...into the heart of the formation.

There seems to be no evidence of it on ground level, though. This formation is full of oddities!

The dwarves continue pumping, and the lava flood begins to spread out over the glacier like dwarven syrup over cat tallow biscuits.

The hellscape expands, slowly but surely.

It's beautiful, in a distinctly dwarven way.

How much larger can it get?

Inside the volcano, the surface of the lava has decreased considerably, but I suspect that the weapon may remain active for some time yet. Pillars of molten rock occasionally shoot up from the depths, refilling the caldera from below.

The edges of the ice and obsidian formation have slowed their expansion, but as long as the weapon remains active, they will continue to grow.

I watch with interest as another strange formation emerges from the expanding edge. Interesting!

My attention is caught by something more distressing. I notice that the surface of the lava within the weapon's nozzle is low - much lower than it ought to be. This corridor ought to be full to the brim with molten rock, but it's more than half empty!

I search for the culprit, going all the way down to the bottom of the pump stack. It's possible for a single layer of pumps to simply be inactive - dwarves often relieve themselves of duty when they grow tired - but all layers are active. All layers, except the lowest one.

What's this? Lava!?

This is problematic. This single tile of lava on the lowest level of the pump stack is preventing the entire device from operating. Pump operators cannot reach the lowest level of pumps, and so no lava reaches the upper levels - or the surface.

Even worse, this lava got there when it spattered up from within the volcano. It is entirely possible that the dwarf - or dwarves - who were here when it happened never left. I do a quick cursory check of the announcement log, and find nothing.

The weapon must be shut down temporarily, at least until the lava on the lowest level can safely dry. I order all of the pumps to be deactivated.

I take a look at the results of the weapon's activation. The affected area is large, but perhaps not as large as it could have been, if the volcano had not interfered with the operation.

Even so, many threats have been resolved. A crowd of foul fog zombies and many other undead were caught in the deluge, and are now sealed away beneath this formation in solid blocks of ice or obsidian.

The weapon is shut off, but the affected area continues to spread slightly, as residual lava finds its way outwards to the edge of the formation.

The surface grows calm - the thunderous sound of dwarven industry fading back to the depths from whence it came.

The flood subsides, leaving the edge of the formation as a series of water pools and ice cliffs.

Little by little, the lava begins to cool and dry into the obsidian below.

The liquid water freezes, leaving a ring of ice cliffs all around the formation. This operation was a success, but it will not be enough to simply activate it once more, if I wish to rid the surface of all threats.

I dig a new access tunnel to the eastern tunnel, which I had constructed for an instance precisely like this. This tunnel will be extended around the eastern rim of the volcano - in time, all of the Ice of Ghosts will feel the withering flame of the Momentous Dye.

Some effects of the weapon are obvious, but others may not be.

True, all of the undead caught in the way of the deluge have perished, and are now safely sealed away beneath this new plateau formation.

Also, the surface of this plateau is completely inaccessible by foot from anywhere else on the map. Effectively, this is new land, reclaimed by the dwarves.

The plateau has cliffs of ice on all sides, and features a lava lake in the middle. The surface is solid obsidian...

...atop a cushion of ice. Symbolically, this is distressing. The weapon was devised as a tool of vengeance against the haunted glacier known as the Ice of Ghosts, but looking at the aftermath, I can't help but conclude that, if anything, the glacier has grown. Against all expectations, the ice has spread and flourished beneath the flame.

And, in truth, very little damage has been done to the glacier at all. A few melted areas here and there, spots where lava splashed down to obsidianize a portion of the glacier, but by and large, the Ice of Ghosts is intact.

It is a small frustration, however. The weapon functions, it works, it can be used as a tool to cleanse the surface. Hope returns to the dwarves of the Momentous Dye - hope that the surface might be reclaimed, hope that the caravan and outpost liaison might reach the fortress alive, even the distant hope that Roomcarnage might someday be declared mountainhome.

All the while, Rith Craftportent stands vigil at the rim of the caldera. She and the vampires watched the weapon's effects unfold from a safe distance. I have made no allowance for these vampires, as I activated the weapon blindly without seeking to care for their well-being. A chill runs up my spine as I get the distinct sensation that they are capable of taking care of themselves.

It is the 24th of Opal, in the mid-winter of 1206. The weapon has been activated for the first time, with great success. A huge portion of the map has been covered with new land, inaccessible to the vile undead - in a sense, that land has been reclaimed with fire and ice. Yet, it is not enough to simply reactivate the weapon, if the dwarves would purge the surface of all their enemies. Now, the dwarves turn their attention to the improvement of the weapon, so that it might be used against all of the undead. A shred of hope, amidst an ocean of misery - someday yet, Roomcarnage may become the mountainhome of the Playful Spattered Walls.